Congressman Steven Palazzo, (MS-4), this week led a letter with four colleagues reminding President Obama to honor commitments to the U.S. maritime industry when considering trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Also signing the letter were Representatives Colleen Hanabusa (HI-1), Rick Larsen (WA-2), Duncan Hunter (CA-52), and John Garamendi (CA-3).
In part, the letter reads:
“We have built a maritime industry that not only focuses on efficiency, but also places the utmost importance on the safety and security of our country. Today, the United States continues to rely upon the commercial U.S.-flag ships, American shipyards and American merchant mariners for its military sealift strategy. Current trade agreements protect the United States’ rights to maintain and promote a U.S. maritime industry. Future trade agreements must do the same.”
Current U.S. cabotage laws, commonly referred to as the Jones Act, require all commercial vessels transporting merchandise between ports in the United States to be built, owned, operated and manned by U.S. citizens and to be registered under the U.S. flag.
The law applies to any vessel operating between two U.S. ports, whether in the continental United States, or non-contiguous states of Hawaii and Alaska, and also Puerto Rico. It functions as a barrier to entry for low-cost foreign carriers, which are not subject to the same wage, labor and environmental regulations faced by U.S. shipbuilders and operators.
The Jones Act industry accounts for:
- $14.0 Billion in annual economic output and 84,000 jobs in U.S. shipyards
- 70,000 jobs working on or with Jones Act vessels
- Over 39,000 vessels of all sizes representing an investment of $30 billion
The Jones Act is an essential feature of U.S. national security policy as it provides required capacity to support national security needs and avoid complete dependence on ships controlled by foreign nations.
Since the U.S. maritime position in international trades has declined significantly in the last three decades, its maintenance is key to the U.S. shipping industry’s continued success.
The full letter
palazzo, April 4, 2014